France win U-20 World Cup on penalties, after dramatic final vs. Uruguay

1 Comment

The French Under-20 won the World Cup in Istanbul earlier this evening, as they defeated Uruguay 4-1 on penalties.

After a 0-0 game that ebbed and flowed but without any goals scored, France’s hero was goalkeeper Alphonse Areola who saved two spot-kick to give France their first ever FIFA U-20 World Cup.

With the grueling tournament now in the history books, plenty of fans across the globe will have been pleased with the action on display in Turkey, even though not many fans actually watch the games in person after incredibly poor attendance figures.

But that should take nothing away from France. Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba, who was nurtured at Manchester United, pulled the strings in the final and looks to be a tremendous player with a bright future. United will rue letting him leave Old Trafford.

And plenty of other stars were born in a tournament that saw plenty of goals, late drama and extra-time heartache. The U.S. national team youngsters will take heart from their Group opponents winning the whole tournament, while Ghana who the USA also faced finished in third.

Anyway back to the final, and the game itself was played out in a nervous manner with France dominating early but Uruguay having the better of the first half.  The French side dominated possession but couldn’t find a way through Uruguay’s stubborn defense and with La Celeste’s wayward shooting, extra time played out scoreless and the dreaded penalty shootout ensued.

(MORE: U.S. U-20’s draw with France, keep World Cup dream alive)

In this day and age, surely we can come up with a better way to decide a game of soccer than the penalty shootout. For any game, in any cup, at any level it is a horrible thing to go through as a player, manager or fan. But this was the U-20 World Cup final!

Anyway, the French scored all four of their penalties and ‘keeper Areola was the man they all rushed to.

The big question now is this: Can France make a comeback on the international scene with all these promising youngsters?

It’s not that cut and dry. But a few of them will definitely be in the squad if the French national team make World Cup 2014. A talented core were all brought through the national team youth ranks when France won the World Cup back in 1998. David Trezeguet, Thierry Henry, Willy Sagnol and William Gallas were all around that squad and went on to become huge stars.

Can the French U-20 World Cup winning squad of 2013 help the French national team return to its glorious past?

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
Leave a comment

Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
1 Comment

Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.